FOR YEARS, people with addiction have wondered when the media would recognize our condition as a medical problem, not a moral one — when they would stop reducing us to mere “addicts” and speak of us in the more respectful and accurate “person first” language that has become common for people with other diseases and disorders.
“Addict” should no longer be used as a noun. “Instead,” the stylebook says, “choose phrasing like ‘he was addicted.’” In short, separate the person from the disease.
Last week, The Associated Press took an important step in that direction. The new edition of its widely used AP Stylebookdeclares that “addict” should no longer be used as a noun. “Instead,” it says, “choose phrasing like he was addicted, people with heroin addiction or he used drugs.” In short, separate the person from the disease.
The style guide clarifies other important language to maximize precision and reduce bias in addiction coverage. There are new entries on “alcoholic,” and an array of substances, from bath salts and cocaine to PCP and synthetic cannabis.
Addiction IS a disease, that’s been scientifically proven. Hopefully changing communication about this disease will slowly change public perception and allow more effective treatment and recognition of the disease status.